Taking Charge of Your Health Care: Maine Law and Health Care Advance Directives
When you need medical care, you have the right to make choices about that care. But there may come a time when you are so sick that you can't make your choices known. You can stay in charge by putting your choices in writing. This is called an Advance Directive, or Living Will. If you'd like to download and print a copy of the Maine Advance Directive form, please click here.
What is an Advance Directive?
Under Maine Law, any spoken or written decision or instruction about the health care you want in the future is called an Advance Directive. You can tell your family your wishes, but it is best to put it in writing. Advance Directives are also sometimes called a living will or durable health care power of attorney. If you have already signed one, be sure your doctor, your hospital and your family have copies.
Who can complete an Advance Directive?
Anyone living in Maine who is 18 years of age or older can complete an advance directive. If you are younger than 18, you may be able to complete an advance directive under other, limited circumstances.
How does an Advance Directive help?
If you sign an Advance Directive, your family and your doctor will know who to talk to about your care or what kinds of treatment you want or don't want when you are too sick to decide. This could happen if you have a serious illness or are near the end of life. If doctors don't know your wishes, they will treat you until they can ask your family what you want. If your family doesn't know, you may get treatment you don't want or which you would stop if you had your way. In an emergency, you will receive care until the doctors can determine your condition and what your wishes are. If you do not have an Advance Directive, Maine law allows your doctor to ask your relatives - and perhaps others close to you - to make decisions about your care.
How can you learn more?
Southern Maine Health Care has packets of information available to help you make a decision about Advance Directives. A member of your patient care team can provide that information to you and arrange for someone to talk with to answer questions.